Stock markets in Europe continue rally
European markets have closed on a – mainly – positive note once again. Analysts said the continuing downbeat data from the eurozone – including poor jobless figures from Spain and France – made it ever more likely the European Central Bank would cut interest rates, perhaps as soon as next week.
Looking at the wider picture, there were some reasonable US weekly jobless figures which helped sentiment. And better than expected UK GDP figures encouraged investors in London, even though the data seemed to suggest there would be no action by the Bank of England to stimulate the economy at its meeting next week. So here is the closing snapshot:
• The FTSE 100 finished 10.83 points higher at 6442.59, a 0.17% increase
• Germany’s Dax added 0.95% to 7832.86
• France’s Cac closed 2.47% lower as the jobless total rose
• Italy’s FTSE MIB ended up 0.52%
• Spain’s Ibex dipped 0.29%
In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently 0.48% higher.
And with that, it’s time to close up for the evening. We’ll be back tomorrow, so thanks for all your comments and see you then.
Italy’s centre right party has been making positive noises after a meeting with new prime minister Enrico Letta.
According to Reuters, the party said Letta was open to its economic priorities and there wil be further talks to resolve outstanding issues.
And here’s a poll showing the country’s split:
French jobless figures hit new high
French unemployment figures are out and it’s not good.
The number of jobless hit an all time high in March, rising by 1.2% to 3.225m. This is the 23rd monthly rise in a row, and means it has reached the worst level since records began in January 1996.
This is more bad news for president Francois Hollande, whose approval ratings are already at a low. They come despite the president’s attempts to promote youth job schemes and allow flexible hiring and firing.
Cyprus sets date for vote on bailout package
Cyprus has set a date for the its parliament to vote on the island’s EU-IMF sponsored rescue programme, reports Helena Smith. She writes:
Cypriot officials are now saying that the bailout package will be put to a make-or-break vote next week and “probably on Tuesday.” The ballot has thrown fresh uncertainty around the rescue programme amid speculation that it may not muster the required majority in the 56-seat House.
Well-briefed insiders say the possibility of the island exiting the euro zone has grown dramatically in recent weeks with many among its business elite backing the idea “as the best way out of the crisis.”
Meanwhile, the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK are increasingly speaking out against the unfair treatment that Cyprus has received at the hands of the EU and IMF.
“The troika has extracted its pound of flesh in Cyprus and has made the island pay dearly for the eurozone’s policy failures in Greece and elsewhere. Alternative solutions, including re-capitalisation of the two main Cypriot banks and their effective ‘nationalisation’ by the European Central Bank, were not given the time of day,” Peter Droussiotis, who heads the federation, told an audience at the Palace of Westeminster last night.
”Such measured solutions, which could have been further calibrated by a more managed contraction of the banking sector, over a transitional period, were set aside with the result that Cyprus’s economy has now suffered a devastating blow,” he said at a dinner attended by the island’s foreign minister and leading British MPs.
Still with Germany, the country has raised its growth forecast for the current year from 0.4% to 0.5%, with 1.6% expected in 2014.
Merkel says ECB would raise rates if looking at Germany alone
There have been some (perhaps unguarded, perhaps not) comments from German chancellor Angela Merkel about European Central Bank interest rates.
As has become apparent in recent days, the markets have become increasingly convinced the ECB will cut rates at its meeting next week. Disappointing economic figures, not least from Germany itself, in the last few days have only reinforced that view.
But speaking at a savings banking conference Merkel said, in what observers said were unusually outspoken comments, that the ECB would have to raise rates if it were looking at Germany alone. In what could be seen as an acknowledgement that the one size fits all approach to completely divergent economies within the eurozone was flawed, she said (courtesy Reuters):
The ECB is in a difficult position. For Germany it would actually have to raise rates slightly at the moment, but for other countries it would have to do even more for more liquidity to be made available.
Meanwhile Investec poured a smidgeon of cold water on the hopes of a rate cut by the ECB next week. The broker’s Victoria Clarke said:
The ECB meets in Bratislava next week with its next monetary policy announcement due at 12.45pm on Thursday and President Draghi’s press conference following at 1.30pm. We judge that the ECB is on the verge of reducing the main refinancing rate either in May or June, but on balance we suspect that move is more likely to come at the June meeting. Hence, whilst a very close call, we see the ECB maintaining the refi rate at 0.75%, the deposit rate at zero and the marginal lending rate at 1.5%.
IMF official calls for Europe to boost growth
The IMF has said Europe must strengthen its growth prospects, otherwise it could fall into long term stagnation.
In a speech in London (apologies for being a bit UK-centric today) David Lipton said:
There is…a risk Europe could fall into stagnation, which would have very serious implications for households, companies, banks and other bedrock institutions.
So, to decisiveliy avoid that dangerous downside, policymakers must act now to strengthen the prospects for growth.
And the austerity versus growth debate goes on…
Video: Britain dodges the triple-dip recession
Here’s a video clip of this morning’s GDP announcement:
And leaving you with that, I am handing over to my colleague Nick Fletcher.
There’s encouraging economic data to report in the US as well — the number of people signing on for jobless benefit fall by 16,000 last week.
At 339,000, the initial jobless claims was the second-lowest reading since the financial crisis began.
Brian Reading of Lombard Street isn’t getting carried away by today’s GDP data:
Near stagnation for the rest of this year would validate the OBR’s 0.6% year-on-year growth forecast. A belly-dancer’s belly-wobbles don’t show whether she is gaining or losing weight. Too much attention is paid to first estimates.
It’s time for a late lunchtime round-up:
Britain has returned to growth and avoided a triple-dip recession, with its economy expanded by 0.3% in the first quarter of the year.
Chancellor George Osborne hailed today’s GDP data as a sign that the UK is recovering (see his statement here). But Labour’s Ed Balls argued that Britain still “urgently” needed a new fiscal plan (see 11.01am).
As my colleague Heather Stewart explains:
The key services sector expanded by 0.6% on the quarter, according to the ONS, while industrial production also grew, by 0.2% – though much of that was accounted for by North Sea output. The struggling construction sector declined by 2.5%.
• Heather’s news story is here: UK avoids triple-dip recession with better-than-expected 0.3% GDP growth
• Joe Grice, the chief economist of the ONS, told reporters that Britain was experiencing a bumpy and shallow recovery (see press conference highlights from 9.34am onwards)
• Business leaders have welcomed the news that the UK is growing (see 11.30am).
• But with the UK still 2.6% smaller than at its peak in 2008, there’s no reason to rejoice (see Larry Elliott’s analysis). Britain’s recovery from the shock of the financial crisis remains slower than in the 1930s (see graph here).
• The news is likely to strengthen George Osborne’s hand ahead of the arrival of International Monetary Fund officials next week (see here).
• In the City, the pound has rallied against the US dollar – up two cents this afternoon at $1.546.
Stephen Lewis, chief economist at Monument Securities, argues that politicians should focus on making serious structural changes to the UK economy rather than scrapping over the pace of fiscal cutbacks.
In a research note Lewis also suggsts that Britain’s economy is not faring too badly given the damage suffered by its financial sector when the crisis began:
It can hardly be doubted that the UK economy was among those suffering the most severe structural damage in the crisis, given its over-reliance on financial services. It would have been a reasonable expectation in 2009 that the UK would take longer than many other advanced economies to pull out of economic depression and that, while in depression, its GDP trajectory would be weaker than most other nations’. In the event, the UK’s economy has lagged the performance of those with sounder structures, such as Germany and the USA.
On the other hand, it has been performing a good deal better than the economies of Spain and Italy, where the structural problems were less obvious in 2009. When viewed in this broad perspective, it makes little sense to argue that the UK is suffering peculiarly strong headwinds on account of the strategy Mr Osborne has chosen to follow. If it were, its GDP might be contracting at a 2-3% annual rate, which is the fate of several other European economies at the moment.
This is not to say that the UK’s growth outlook might not be even stronger than it currently appears but action that addresses structural weaknesses is likely to be more effective than tweaking macroeconomic policies.
To fashion measures that strengthen the economy’s structure is more of a challenge to politicians than to argue over macroeconomic settings. That may be one reason why comparatively little progress has been made towards structural reform.
Over on Comment is Free, Will Hutton is making the case for the government to push through structural reforms and create a new bad bank, rather than take comfort in today’s data.
Here’s a flavour:
Osborne has never looked economic reality squarely in the eye – that in 2008 Britain suffered a massive credit crunch, disabling its banking sector and exposing a vast legacy of private debt in an economy which had grossly over-invested in property, construction and financial services. Economies after such shocks and with such grievous imbalances need a prolonged period of convalescence. It is imperative, knowing that the private sector must retrench, that the public sector does all it can to compensate.
Over the past three years, Osborne has stubbornly done the opposite, blindly believing in the private sector’s magical properties which the state can only impair. He has stood back, attempting to slash the deficit and generally disengaging. Events have forced him to moderate his position, with the beginnings of an industrial policy along with bank reform, but it has been too little, too late and with too little conviction. The pity is that today’s news will reinforce his position, easing the political pressure for change.
Two years ago, George Osborne pledged to deliver “A Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers” in his March 2011 budget.
Today’s GDP data, though, show that it’s the services sector (+0.6%) which is delivering most of the growth rather than industry (+0.2% — mainly due to higher oil production), while manufacturing declined by 0.3%.
That doesn’t suggest that the much-discussed rebalancing of the UK economy is completed.
The big picture is still one of an economy that is only creeping forwards: GDP is still 2.6% below 2008’s peak and has risen just 0.4% over the past 18 months. With global economic data showing signs of a slowdown, it isn’t clear the first quarter’s expansion is sustainable.
Meanwhile, there is precious little sign of the rebalancing of the U.K. economy that policy makers like Bank of England Governor Mervyn King say is necessary: all of the growth in the first quarter was in the services sector, up 0.6%, while manufacturing contracted 0.3%. But the City still appears to be in the doldrums: business services and finance increased just 0.2% in the quarter.
Today’s rise in GDP comes as economists warn that inflation in the UK could rise over the 3% mark again this summer.
Jeremy Cook, chief economist at World First, told BBC News that inflationary pressures mean it is vital that the UK economy keeps growing so workers can push for pay rises (inflation is currently 2.8%, while wages are rising at just 1%)
If we start to see profits in manufacturing and construction, which were poor in this quarter, come alongside what the services sector is doing then members of those sectors can go to their companies, ask for wage increases, probably get them.
And therefore the cost of living for you and me become a little bit more favourable.
Osborne: it’s not an easy recovery
Sky News just broadcast an interview with George Osborne in which the chancellor was cautiously upbeat about the UK economy following today’s GDP data.
It is not as easy a path out of recovery as anyone would have hoped a few years ago.
But added that Brritain has “won credibility around the world” for the way it has handled the crisis.
Osborne appeared relaxed about the prospect of next month’s IMF visit. He argued that the pace of UK fiscal consolidation, or “the pace opf the cuts if you like” as he put it, is appropriate and consistent with the IMF’s own guidance.
The chancellor added that manufacturing exports are growing slower than he’d like — which he partly blamed on the weakness on key markets in Europe.
The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has taken a cautious view of today’s GDP data:
I don’t want anyone to think that somehow we are out of the woods yet. We have still got a lot of work to do. The healing of the British economy is taking longer than we had anticipated and we will continue to work hard to make sure the country and the economy grow from strength to strength.
Does the Osborne fightback start here?
Last week was pretty dire for George Osborne. It began with the International Monetary Fund suggesting his economic plan should be changed, and ended with MPs giving a scathing verdict on his new scheme to help first-time buyers (via a nasty rise in unemployment and Fitch downgrading Britain’s AAA rating).
By the weekend, the chancellor appeared to be on the mat. But today’s GDP data could be the moment that his fortunes change.
The IMF is due in London next week for a healthcheck on the UK economy — Osborne can now point to a growing economy — at a time when the eurozone remains stuck in recession.
It’s even possible that the ONS will revise its historic data, and conclude that Britain did not contract between the fouth-quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012. That would mean the dreaded double-dip never actually happened…
GDP: the reaction
The general reaction to today’s growth figures has been quite positive.
Graeme Leach, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, called it “good news just when we needed it”.
John Cridland, CBI director general, argues that the UK now really needs “a recovery in manufacturing output, helped by a brighter global outlook”:
And Rob Carnell of ING Bank called it “one in the eye” for the International Monetary Fund, after last week’s criticism of the UK government from senior IMF staff.
There’s a full, comprehensive round-up of reaction to today’s GDP data, here: UK avoids triple-dip recession – full reaction
Balls: Urgent action still needed
Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, has given a rather muted response to today’s GDP data, repeating his call for the chancellor to adjust the pace of his fiscal plans.
Here’s his full response:
These lacklustre figures show our economy is only just back to where it was six months ago and continue the picture of flatlining we have seen since the last spending review. David Cameron and George Osborne have now given us the slowest recovery for over 100 years.
This stagnation in our economy is the reason why people are worse off than when this government came to office. They took an economy that was starting to grow strongly, with falling unemployment and a falling deficit, and delivered stagnation, rising unemployment and £245 billion more borrowing than planned. The government’s economic policies have failed and Britain’s families and businesses continue to pay the price.
If we’re to have a strong and sustained recovery, and catch up all the ground we have lost over the last few years, we need urgent action to kickstart our economy and strengthen it for the long-term – as Labour and the IMF have warned. We need radical bank reform and a jobs and growth plan, including building thousands of affordable homes and a compulsory jobs guarantee for the long term unemployed. And instead of a tax cut for millionaires, we need a lower 10p starting rate of tax to ease the squeeze on millions of people on middle and low incomes.
The longer we continue to bump along the bottom the more long term damage will be done. Britain’s struggling families and businesses cannot afford another two years of this.”
Slowest recovery since the Great Depression
This graph (from our Datablog) shows how the UK economy actually recovered faster after the Great Depression:
The Labour Party makes the same point, and tries to pin the blame on the prime minister.
Alex Hern: UK is stagnating
Our economic system is basically built around a paradigm of real economic growth in the two to three per cent range. We can handle short-term deviations from that norm, but the long-term trend must remain the same.
Growth much below that isn’t growth at all; it’s stagnation by another name. On top of that, real GDP growth isn’t the only figure we heard today; we also know the growth per capita. And in a country with a rising population like ours, we need to be growing just for that to stand still.
As it is, GDP per capita fell by 0.3 per cent in the last quarter. The nation is getting richer, but its people are still getting poorer
And this graph from the ONS shows how GDP is stil below its 2008 peak:
Larry Elliott: It’s helpful for Osborne
Our economics editor Larry Elliott has analysed today’s GDP data. He points out that while 0.3% growth is ‘resonably solid’ under the circumstances, but unspectacular by historic standards.
And it’s enough to spare Osborne the ‘disaster’ of presiding over a triple-dip recession:
The actual figure was reasonably solid. The service sector – which accounts for 75% of the economy – grew by 0.6% on the quarter, while a bounce back in North Sea oil output helped industrial production grow by 0.2%. Had it not been for the 2.5% quarterly drop in the still depressed construction sector, growth would have been around 0.5% in the first quarter, quite close to its long-term trend.
It is not all good news. Despite the growth in early 2013, the economy is still 2.6% below its peak in early 2008 when the recession began. And, as the Office for National Statistics noted, the economy is no bigger now than it was 18 months ago – a point Ed Balls will no doubt be making over the coming weeks and months.
But make no mistake, this number is helpful to Osborne, who was quick to say that there were encouraging signs that the economy is healing. Had Thursday’s number been negative – even by just 0.1% – that claim would have been impossible to make.
Cable: it doesn’t feel like a recovery yet
Out in Brazil, business secretary Vince Cable has welcomed the news that Britain has avoided falling back into recession. But he also points to several weaknesses in the UK economy, including construction (which suffered that 2.5% contraction).
Here’s Cable’s full comment:
We’ve always said the road to recovery would be a marathon, not a sprint.
Today’s figures are modestly encouraging and taken alongside other indicators such as employment figures, suggest that things are going in the right direction.
However there is still a long way to go and some serious issues such as the systemic lack of bank lending to SMEs, the weakness in the construction sector and the need to press further on trade and exports, which I am doing now on my visit to Brazil.
These issues all need to be addressed before people feel like the economy is genuinely starting to recover.
And here’s what a bumpy, shallow recovery looks like (via the Guardian’s Datablog)
ONS: Britain’s bumpy and shallow recovery
The ONS’s chief economist Joe Grice said the 0.3 per cent growth registered from January to the end of March fitted the pattern in recent years.
“Today’s figures seem to be not out of line with recent history of an upward trend, but one that is quite bumpy and shallow,” he said.
The services sector growth of 0.6 per cent was “broadly based” and offset falls in manufacturing at the beginning of the year and a sharp fall in construction output.
But within the services sector, car sales were a major growth area after a spending surge in the first three months, said ONS statastician Rob Doody.
The services sector is now 0.7 per cent above its peak. However, manufacturing remains 10 per cent below the peak in 2008 and construction is 18 per cent below its peak, said Grice.
(via our economics correspondent, Phillip Inman)
The full details of today’s GDP data can be downloaded here:
My colleague Paul Owen is covering all the political news today, including the full reaction from Westminster to today’s GDP data, here: Politics Live.
Pound jumps, but FTSE doesn’t
The pound is rallying on the foreign exchange markets, up almost one-and-a-half cents against the US dollar at $1.514.
Shares are unmoved, though, as our market reporter Nick Fletcher reports:
The FTSE 100, down 15.85 points ahead of the GDP announcement, edged slightly higher before slipping back to the current 6414.56, down 17.20 points.
Car sales and oil production fuel growth
Phillip Inman flags up that strong sales of motor vehicles, and a bounce-back in oil production, helped to push UK GDP up in Q1.
From the ONS press conference, he reports:
GDP was rescued by car sales, says the ONS, with the Motor trade element of the services sector showing the strongest growth…
A bounce back in North Sea production after a sharp decline in q4 2012 is also a big factor in the rise this quarter.
Despite the welcome rise in UK GDP in the last three months, Britain’s economy is still 2.6% smaller than its all-time peak in 2008 — shortly before the collapse of Lehman Brothers rocked the financial world and drove many countries into recession.
Osborne: Britain is recovering
George Osborne has welcomed today’s GDP data, arguing it shows that the government is making progress.
Here’s the chancellor’s statement in full:
Today’s figures are an encouraging sign the economy is healing. Despite a tough economic backdrop, we are making progress.
The deficit is down by a third, businesses have created over a million and a quarter new jobs, and interest rates are at record lows.
We all know there are no easy answers to problems built up over many years, and I can’t promise the road ahead will always be smooth, but by continuing to confront our problems head on, Britain is recovering and we are building an economy fit for the future.
Joe Grice, the head of the ONS, is refusing to make any predictions for how the UK economy may fare in the months ahead.
Service sector leads the way
Britain’s dominant service sector has led the way, putting the UK back to growth and averting the triple-dip.The construction industry, though, continues to suffer an ongoing contraction.
Service sector grew by 0.6% in Q1
Construction sector shrank by 2.5%
Production industries: grew by 0.2%
On a year-on-year basis, Britain’s GDP is 0.6% larger than a year ago.
Joe Grice of the ONS is explaining that this adds to the picture of a slow, bumpy recovery over the last 12 and 18 months. He’s talking about Britain’s economy being on a plateau, but one on a slow, upwards trend.
Triple dip avoided
This is good news for George Osborne, says our economics editor Larry Elliott:
It means the triple-dip fears have been averted – although Labour will say that the economy is back to where it was six months ago.
UK GDP released – Britain avoids recession
UK GDP has grown by 0.3% in the first three months of this year.
That means Britain has avoided falling back into recession.
More to follow
The GDP data will be announced at a press conferrence at 9.30am sharp in London. Our economics correspondent Phillip Inman is there.
The news is also released to the City at the same moment.
Just 10 minutes to go until the Office for National Statistics releases its first estimate of UK GDP for the first quarter of 2013, and the predictions and caveats are flying:
A bit of excitement is OK, though
Surveys of UK firms in recent weeks have suggested that conditions have improved a little in 2013. That’s one reason that City economists, on balance, predict a small rise in GDP.
This graph shows ‘composite PMI’ (a measure of whether companies’ output is growing) versus GDP.
Marc Ostwald of Monument Securities says it is ‘at best facile’ to fret too much about the triple dip right now, as this morning’s data will probably be revised.
Ostwald also points out that the consensus forecast of +0.1% in the first quarter would mean Britain’s GDP would have risen by +0.3% on a year-on-year basis.
That would actually be quite a good outcome, in light of a very long and arduous winter and its dampening effect on activity, not only in the UK, but across Europe, notwithstanding the other non-weather related headwinds blowing from the Eurozone.
Economist Andrew Lilico argues that it doesn’t really matter whether today’s data shows a small rise or a small fall.
And in the readers comments below, rafters points to the big picture:
Double dip, triple dip, quadruple dip, what does it matter?
We’re just bumping along the bottom like an aircraft failing to take flight. All a short period of growth means is we’ll shortly have another dip to add to the number.
Spanish jobs data shows perils of austerity
Here’s our Madrid correspondent Giles Tremlett‘s take on this morning’s dire Spanish unemployment data (see 8.42am)
Is this where austerity gets you? Spain’s unemployment rate reached 27 percent in the first quarter of this year, with more than six million unemployed for the first time ever.The figure of 6.2 million unemployed comes from the state statistics agency today. Spain’s economy shrank 1.9 percent over the last year, though the speed of decline appeared to be slowing in the first quarter.
Mariano Rajoy’s People’s party (PP) government is due to introduce further cuts tomorrow. There are also rumours of further pension reform, with the retirement age for Spaniards apparently set to rise above 67. But a change of heart in Brussels will, according to reports in El Pais, see the deficit target softened considerably this year – raising it from 4.5 percent of GDP to six percent or above. Last year’s deficit (excluding bank bailouts) was 7.1 percent.
Spain’s jobless rate is also more than three times as high as the UK — where it hit 7.9% last week.
George Osborne has often blamed the eurozone’s debt crisis for causing some of Britain’s economic ills, and the latest Spanish unemployment data (just released) certainly confirms the scale of the crisis in Europe.
The Spanish jobless rate hit 27.1% in the first quarter of 2013 – even worse than economists had expected. Spain is already deep in recession, and its GDP is expected to shrink by 1.6% this year.
The bigger picture…
As many of you are pointing out in the comments below, the triple-dip question shouldn’t distract from the fact that Britain’s economy has been bumping along for a while.
On a quarterly basis GDP has risen, or fallen (see the chart at 7.34am) but the broad picture is of an economy stagnating for most of the last two years.
Also worth noting that we only get the preliminary estimate of GDP this morning – it will probably be revised.
Any predictions for UK GDP today? If so, do post them in the comments below. (Full disclosure: I plumped for +0.2% in the office sweepstake).
Calm in the City
The London stock market has opened, and shares and sterling have risen slightly in early trading.
FTSE 100: up 25 points at 6456, + 0.4%. That’s a new three-week high.
The pound is also up nearly half a cent against the dollar, at $1.530.
The word in the City is that Britain will probably avoid a triple dip, but that the wider economic landscape remains troubled.
As Michael Hewson of CMC Markets put it:
The amount of growth to all intents and purposes is likely to be economically insignificant, but in a political context it is very important for the credibility of the government’s current policy, being the difference between a triple dip recession or not.
What the economists are saying
We’ve rounded-up some of the City economist forecasts for GDP. here: Will Britain slide into a triple-dip recession?
Bad weather could be key
Fears of a triple-dip recession have been fuelled by the grim winter weather which Britain suffered at the start of 2013. Heavy snowfall forced some factories to close, and also deterred many people from venturing onto the high street to spend.
As we wrote last month: Cold weather makes triple-dip recession more likely, economists fear
City analyst James Knightley reckons that the UK economy was flat in the first three months of 2013. A reading of 0% change to GDP would mean that the UK was not back in recession.
Today’s GDP numbers will tell us if the UK has returned to technical recession for the third time in 5 years.
Bad weather in January and March make this a close call.
Has Britain suffered a triple-dip?
Good morning. Britain will learn today whether it has slumped into an unprecedented triple-dip recession when economic output data for the first quarter of 2013 is published.
The data, released at 9.30am by the Office for National Statistics, is eagerly awaited both in the City and in Westminster.
A negative GDP reading will plunge the UK economy into its third recession (defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth), since the financial crisis began in 2008.
As well as a measure of the UK’s economic strength, the latest GDP data is also a scorecard of George Osborne‘s performance.
The chancellor is already under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to relax the pace of his fiscal programme, and stinging from the loss of Britain’s AAA rating with two credit rating agencies this year.
Many economists expect that Britain probably eked out a little growth at the start of this year. The City consensus is that UK GDP expanded by 0.1% between January and March. But some economists have predicted a negative reading, which would follow the 0.3% contraction in the last quarter of 2012.
Britain is also the first major country to report GDP data for the first quarter of 2013, so today’s data could show how the global economy is faring.
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